Lockdown: Education dept pays Rand Water R200m to supply emergency water to struggling schools

A general view of Glenstantia Primary School preparing for students to return to school.
A general view of Glenstantia Primary School preparing for students to return to school.
Lee Warren, Gallo Images
  • Rand Water has been paid R200 million by the Department of Basic Education to supply emergency water tanks to more than 3 000 schools.
  • The department identified 3 335 schools that had no adequate water supply.
  • So far, Covid-19 infections have been recorded at 775 schools, with 523 pupils and 1 169 staff affected.

The Department of Basic Education has paid Rand Water R200 million to supply emergency water tanks to more than 3 000 schools.

Department Director-General Mathanzima Mweli told MPs on Wednesday that, prior to the reopening of schools, 3 500 without adequate water supply had been identified.

This number was subsequently reduced 3 335, Mweli said.

Mweli and several other department officials briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the impact of Covid-19 lockdown on schools, and its preparations.

"The DBE initiated an emergency water supply programme appointed Rand Water as an implementing agent, to assist provinces to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection in schools. Rand Water is busy with Phase 1 – the temporary installation of tanks to ensure that each school on the list has at least one tank. The DBE transferred only R200 million to Rand Water as a first tranche.  There is currently no expenditure beyond that," Mweli said.

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He added that Rand Water had procured tanks from 40 different suppliers, and that the average cost for a 5 000-litre and 10 000-litre tank was R5 020 and R9 551 respectively.

"Savings were also achieved by the simplifying of the temporary tank installation.  The installations were budgeted at an average cost of R18 460. The simplified installation is now at an average cost of R3 312."

Phase 1 of the department's emergency water plan had, so far, resulted in 1 846 water tanks being delivered to provinces - mostly in the Eastern Cape (732) and Limpopo (435).

Officials hade installed 1 762 water tanks out of a total 2 624 installations that were required at schools across the province.

The Western Cape is the only province where Rand Water was not involved in providing water tanks.

Basic sanitation would also be provided to 1 363 schools in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, the department said.

ALSO READ | Social media posts claiming KZN education dept paid R170 000 per water tanker 'fake news' - officials

Phase 1 of the project comes at a cost R30 million and is intended to provide four mobile toilets per (1 363) school, while R25 million has been budgeted for Phase 2 that will see 600 toilets built at 100 schools.

On schools reopening during the lockdown, Mweli said disruptions in the classroom could have a severe impact on a child’s ability to learn.

"The longer marginalised children are out of school, the less likely they are to return. Children from the poorest households are already almost five times more likely to be out of primary school than those from the richest. Being out of school also increases the risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, child marriage, violence and other threats," Mweli said.

So far, Covid-19 infections have been recorded at 775 schools, with 523 pupils and 1 169 staff affected.

The Western Cape and Eastern Cape have recorded the highest number of infections.

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